Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics (PhD)

Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics (PhD)is an interdisciplinary program that combines the application of computer technology to the management and analysis of biological data. The result is that computers are being used to organize data generated from experiments into databases, develop new algorithms and software, and use this software for the interpretation and analysis of the data into meaningful biological information. For the past ten years, our PhD program has been training students to organize, visualize, analyze and interpret biological data. Students have access to world renowned bioinformaticians at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the BC Cancer Agency, and have exposure to the latest technologies to develop their skills.

Strategic Program Objectives:

  • To build on British Columbia's reputation and excellence in bioinformatics.
  • To integrate bioinformatics into basic biology to further current research excellence in other life science sectors of the province.
  • To foster collaborations locally, nationally and internationally.

What makes the program unique?

The Bioinformatics PhD program integrates academic centres in computer science, statistics, molecular biology and biotechnology, with translational groups at hospitals and at the clinical interface. The innovative partnership among the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the BC Cancer Agency allows students' access to experts in the field of bioinformatics, and exposure to original research and opportunities to complete significant practical work on real bioinformatics problems. Internships allow student mobility between Canadian and international universities, institutions and industries to further enhance collaborations among Canadian high-technology research groups in both the private and public sectors.

Program Structure

The major requirement for the Ph.D. is completion of a research dissertation meeting the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requirements. There are no specific course requirements for the Ph.D. degree program apart from the dissertation. However, the student's Ph.D. dissertation committee has the prerogative to impose course requirements where course deficiencies are perceived.

All doctoral students are required to successfully complete a comprehensive examination, which consists of an oral and written component within the first 36 months of study. All students are required to present a Bioinformatics graduate program seminar upon completion of their program, and before their dissertation defense.

A student's committee for the doctorate will consist of the dissertation supervisor and three others. The supervisor and at least one other member must be members of the Bioinformatics graduate program.

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Program Enquiries

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Contact the program

Admission Information & Requirements

Program Instructions

Students must secure a supervisor before they can be admitted into the program. As well, they must meet the minimum admission requirements set out by Graduate and Post-doctoral Studies at UBC.

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 100

Reading

22

Writing

21

Speaking

21

Listening

22

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 7.0

Reading

6.0

Writing

6.0

Speaking

6.0

Listening

6.0

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Prior Degree Requirements

Students admitted to the Ph.D. degree program normally possess an M.Sc. degree in Bioinformatics or a related area, with clear evidence of research ability or potential.

Document Requirements

CV, Official transcripts, three letters of reference, Official English exam scores (if required)

2) Meet Deadlines

January 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 18 September 2020
Transcript Deadline: 18 September 2020
Referee Deadline: 18 September 2020
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 04 August 2020
Transcript Deadline: 04 August 2020
Referee Deadline: 04 August 2020

May 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 22 January 2021
Transcript Deadline: 22 January 2021
Referee Deadline: 22 January 2021
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 18 December 2020
Transcript Deadline: 18 December 2020
Referee Deadline: 18 December 2020

September 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 12 March 2021
Transcript Deadline: 12 March 2021
Referee Deadline: 12 March 2021
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 12 February 2021
Transcript Deadline: 12 February 2021
Referee Deadline: 12 February 2021

3) Prepare Application

Transcripts

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics (PhD)
All applicants need firm commitment from a supervisor prior to applying.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Research Information

Program Components

Students who secure an NSERC-CREATE scholarship will undertake a 3-4 month internship that may be local, within Canada or at an international University or Institution.

Research Facilities

Bioinformatics faculty are spread throughout the UBC campus, as well as off-campus at the BC Cancer Research Centre or hospital research labs and Institutions.

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$108.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,698.56$2,984.09
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,095.68$8,952.27
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$969.17 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

All students accepted by a faculty member and enrolled in the program will be paid a minimum stipend of $24,300/year.  Applicants who are interested in the organization and management of data, the development of algorithms and software, and application of these approaches to questions in wide-ranging areas of biology may consider the NSERC-CREATE funded Training Program in High-Dimensional Bioinformatics that provides additional funding and professional development opportunities.

Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

12 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 12 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):


RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
McGill University
Stanford university
University of California - Santa Cruz
Harvard University
Simon Fraser University
University of California - Los Angeles
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Vancouver Prostate Centre
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Omicia
Scripps Research Institute
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Postdoctoral Fellow (3)
Independent Scientist
Senior Director of Bioinformatics
Assistant Professor
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Career Options

As biological datasets increase exponentially in both size and complexity, bioinformatics tools have central importance in fields and industries ranging from environmental management, forestry, aquaculture, and biofuels to personalized medicine, drug development, preventative medicine and gene therapy. Individuals who can analyuze and interpret large data sets or "big data" are highly sought after by both public and private sector employers.  Academic positions at Universities are widely available in all fields of study.

Ph.D. graduates from the program have gone on to pursue post-doctoral studies at Stanford, Harvard school of Medicine, Max Delbruck Centre in Berlin, Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, Ontario Cancer Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Santa Cruz, and locally at UBC and SFU.  One graduate is an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and another is an assistant professor at the University of Dalhousie in Halifax, NS.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

Enrolment Data

 20192018201720162015
Applications232224166
Offers49955
New registrations45944
Total enrolment4341373229

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 77.78% based on 9 students admitted between 2007 - 2010. Based on 6 graduations between 2016 - 2019 the minimum time to completion is 4.83 years and the maximum time is 5.83 years with an average of 5.14 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 10 March 2020]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs [data updated: 29 October 2020].

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Haynes, Charles (Protein purification, recombinant proteins, molecular thermodynamics, biocompatible polymers)
  • Hieter, Philip (Molecular biology of eukaryotic chromosome transmission )
  • Hinch, Scott (salmon migrations, salmon ecology, salmon fisheries, fish conservation, land use impacts (e.g. forestry) on fish and habitat, Salmon, conservation, ecology, fish ecology, fisheries management, stream, and riperian ecology)
  • Hirst, Martin (Carcinogenesis; Leukemia; Cellular Differentiation; Bioinformatics; Genomics; Molecular Genetics; Epigenomics)
  • Ho, Kendall (eHealth, knowledge translation, educational research, continuing professional development, interprofessional education, evidence informed policy, eLearning, global eHealth )
  • Holt, Robert (Immunogenetics, Metagenomics - Infectious agents in Cancer, Cancer Genomes, Neurobiology, DNA Sequencing)
  • Hoodless, Pamela (Embryonic Development; Genomics; Heart Valve / Valvular Diseases; Liver; Stem Cells and Organogenesis; Developmental Genetics; Embryology; transcriptional regulation; Epigenetics; Heart valve formation; Liver development)
  • Huan, Tao (Metabolic measurements; Metabolomics; Cellular Metabolism)
  • Huntsman, David (Corporate Law; Contracts; Competition Law; legal history)
  • Jones, Steven J (Bioinformatics, genome science, mutations, cancer progression)
  • Karsan, Aly (Hematological tumours; Cancer molecular targets; Leukemia; Hematopoiesis; Genomics and epigenomics; Noncoding RNAs; Aging)
  • Keeling, Patrick John (Molecular evolution and cell biology of eukaryotes)
  • Kobor, Michael (Epigenetics; Social Epigenetics; molecular biology; Chromatin Biology)
  • Korthauer, Keegan (Statistical genomics; Epigenomics; Single-cell analysis)
  • Kronstad, James (Microbiology; Molecular Genetics; Genomics and Proteomics; Pathogenesis of infectious diseases; Medical Mycology; Plant-Microbe Interactions; Fungal diseases of plants)
  • Lam, Wan (Cancer progression; Genome biology; Epigenetics; Molecular Systems Biology; Lung Cancer; Technology Development)
  • Lange, Philipp (Cell Signaling and Cancer; Bioinformatics; Proteomics; pediatric cancer; post translational protein modification; personalized medicine; mass spectrometry)
  • Maddison, Wayne (Arachnology, Biodiversity, Spiders, Phylogenetic Theory and Programming)
  • Mansfield, Shawn (plant metabolism, cellulose biosynthesis, lignin biosynthesis, wood formation, wood quality, cell wall biochemistry, tree biotechnology, transgenics, Tree biotechnology)
  • Marra, Marco (Genomics; Bioinformatics; Molecular Genetics; Cancer Genetics; Genes; Genetic Mapping; Genome; genomics; Genetics; Epigenomics; Cancer biology)
  • Measday, Vivien (Chromosome segregation in the budding yeast using molecular biology and genomic tools)
  • Munzner, Tamara (Human-centered computing; visualization; information visualization; visual analytics; data science)
  • Murphy, Michael (Microbiology; Functional and Structural Proteomics; Biological and Biochemical Mechanisms; Microbial metal metabolism; Bacterial pathogenesis; Alternatives to antibiotics)
  • Ng, Raymond Tak-yan (Data mining and analysis, health informatics, text summarization, text mining)
  • Otto, Sarah (evolution, mathematical modeling, population genetics, genomic evolution, evolution of sex, yeast experimental evolution, Population genetics and evolutionary biology, yeast)

Pages

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2016 Dr. Chen studied Bioinformatics to examine gene regulation as it applies to biological hypotheses. Her work contributes to a better understanding of the hierarchical regulation of genes and the differential expression between the sexes. This work will further our understanding of diseases and phenotypes.
2016 Dr. Lim studied gene and microRNA expressions in cancer. She discovered patterns that are associated with cancer development & treatment resistance. Her results can be used towards the design of diagnostic tests to identify patients who are unlikely to respond to standard therapy and may be better served with more aggressive & experimental therapies.
2016 Dr. Roth developed statistical models for studying the genomes of cancer cells. These models have been widely applied in the cancer genomics community to study the evolution of tumours. This work contributes significantly to our ability to diagnose and treat cancer.
2016 Dr. Lai used computer science to study how RNA molecules fold inside of the body. By reviewing the latest methods, he published new benchmarks and guidelines for the prediction of RNA structures. This knowledge can help researchers in finding and understanding novel RNA molecules within unexplored regions of the human genome.
2015 Dr. Kasaian studied the molecular cause of several head and neck endocrine malignancies. While the commonly diagnosed papillary thyroid carcinomas harbored very few mutations, the rare but deadly anaplastic thyroid cancers were found to have accrued numerous genomic alterations. Molecular analysis hinted to potential drug targets in some patients.
2015 Dr. Li used computer-aided design methods to develop small, novel drug molecules for the treatment of prostate cancer. The new strategy used in this work found molecules that might be able to treat advanced prostate cancer. It is hoped that these molecules will help overcome drug resistance and prevent the disease from progressing.
2015 Dr. Hunt developed computational approaches to improve detection of regions in the human genome that are dedicated to the regulation of gene expression. Her research has improved our understanding and interpretation of large-scale genomics data, and her findings will directly impact the clinical analysis of human DNA sequences.
2015 Dr. O'Neill completed his doctoral studies in bioinformatics at the BC Cancer Research Centre. He developed and applied computational methods for analysing data from many cells of many cancer patients at the same time. These methods will aid researchers in finding new drug targets and clinical tests for acute myeloid leukemia and other cancers.
2015 Dr. Hanson studies genes and genomes that have been obtained from the environment. He developed MetaPathways, an analytical software that can be applied to this biological 'Big Data'. This work provides researchers and clinicians with a powerful framework that can be used to compare gene and genomes from oceans, soils and the human intestinal tract.
2014 Dr. Ha studied the genome alterations in the DNA of cancer cells. He developed novel computational algorithms to detect these mutations in breast and ovarian cancer patients. His work has advanced our understanding of how tumours evolve and will facilitate future studies on genetic causes for treatment resistance and cancer metastasis.

Pages

Further Information

Specialization

Bioinformatics combines computational and biological disciplines.

Faculty Overview

Academic Unit

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-CS
 

Apply Now

If you don't have a UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) please create an account first.
If you don't have a UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) please create an account first.
 

January 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicant Deadline
18 September 2020
International Applicant Deadline
04 August 2020

May 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicant Deadline
22 January 2021
International Applicant Deadline
18 December 2020

September 2021 Intake

Application Open Date
25 May 2020
Canadian Applicant Deadline
12 March 2021
International Applicant Deadline
12 February 2021
 
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